\ ˈshelf How to pronounce shelf (audio) \
plural shelves\ ˈshelvz How to pronounce shelves (audio) \

Definition of shelf

1a : a thin flat usually long and narrow piece of material (such as wood) fastened horizontally (as on a wall) at a distance from the floor to hold objects
b : one of several similar pieces in a closet, bookcase, or similar structure
c : the contents of a shelf the author of a shelf of best sellers
2 : something resembling a shelf in form or position: such as
a : a sandbank or ledge of rocks usually partially submerged
b : a flat projecting layer of rock
c : the submerged gradually sloping border of a continent or island : continental shelf
off the shelf
: available from stock : not made to order off the shelf equipment
on the shelf
: in a state of inactivity or uselessness

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Other Words from shelf

shelfful \ ˈshelf-​ˌfu̇l How to pronounce shelfful (audio) \ noun
shelflike \ ˈshelf-​ˌlīk How to pronounce shelflike (audio) \ adjective

Examples of shelf in a Sentence

Put the vase on the shelf. the top shelf of the kitchen cabinet Will you get that book down off the shelf? We don't have much shelf space.
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Recent Examples on the Web Make room for the bucket in your refrigerator - adjusting shelves if necessary. Susan Selasky, Detroit Free Press, "Brining: Why it’s the best method for your holiday turkey," 24 Nov. 2019 Not rum, not vodka, but something unlike anything on your liquor store shelves. Tennessean Staff, USA TODAY, "10 gifts for people who love Nashville," 19 Nov. 2019 Kraft Heinz also made steep budget cuts at a time when research and development should have increased, analysts say, with start-ups competing for shelf space. David Yaffe-bellany, New York Times, "A Milk Giant Goes Broke as Americans Reject Old Staples," 13 Nov. 2019 Through it all, Ammon said, the library has managed to maintain the diversity of its shelves., "For decades, Coeur d’Alene has navigated a delicate political landscape in northern Idaho, a conservative corner of the country where some have sought refuge from political and social changes elsewhere.," 11 Nov. 2019 But companies still invest in seasonal innovations to provide excitement for retailers and consumers during the several weeks when candy is given ample shelf space, Goldman said. Alexia Elejalde-ruiz,, "From doughnut candy corn to zombie Skittles, candymakers try to tickle trick-or-treaters with twists on classics," 30 Oct. 2019 Big wins at the Symphony’s new products competition two years ago has led to shelf space at Costco and a pet food deal with Purina. Anchorage Daily News, "Alaska fishermen push for changes to how managers deal with bycatch," 8 Oct. 2019 In addition to welcoming Kendall to its shelves, Kohl’s has teamed up with the Olsen twins and Fifth Harmony in the past. Lauren Rearick, Teen Vogue, "Kendall Jenner’s Formawell Beauty Hair-Care Line Is Now Available at Kohl’s," 24 Sep. 2019 Here, four essential ingredients deemed worthy of their very limited shelf space. Jesse Sparks, Bon Appétit, "Inside the Obsessively Curated Pantry at Konbi, Our Best New Restaurant of the Year," 18 Sep. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'shelf.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of shelf

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for shelf

Middle English, probably from Old English scylfe; akin to Old Norse hlīthskjalf Odin's seat

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Time Traveler for shelf

Time Traveler

The first known use of shelf was in the 14th century

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Statistics for shelf

Last Updated

30 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Shelf.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 7 December 2019.

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More Definitions for shelf


How to pronounce shelf (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of shelf

: a flat board which is attached to a wall, frame, etc., and on which objects can be placed
geology : a flat area of rock, sand, etc., especially underwater


\ ˈshelf How to pronounce shelf (audio) \
plural shelves\ ˈshelvz \

Kids Definition of shelf

1 : a flat piece (as of wood or metal) set above a floor (as on a wall or in a bookcase) to hold things
2 : a flat area (as of rock)

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More from Merriam-Webster on shelf

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with shelf

Spanish Central: Translation of shelf

Nglish: Translation of shelf for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of shelf for Arabic Speakers

Comments on shelf

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